Saturday, June 6, 2015

Where are the Sisters? The Dilemma of "Moderate" Islam

This is a somewhat involved story, and unfortunately I don't quite have the "goods" that I thought I might be able to obtain from the Wayback Machine.

Here's the set-up. The Islamic Diversity Centre of Newcastle, United Kingdom, tries extremely hard to present itself as the face of "moderate" Islam. The spokesman of the group, a native British convert named Daniel Johnson, has gone on record numerous times condemning ISIS, terrorism in general and various specific terrorist incidents. He has a series of video talks where he reaches out to those of other faiths including Catholics, Buddhists, Christian Scientists and others. The group also sends people into schools including Catholic schools, to do workshops on Islam--again presenting it in as friendly and non-confrontational way as possible. Their slogan is, "Challenging Stereotypes; Removing Misconceptions". 

Now, the women of the Centre usually dress in full burka or at least a full face-covering niqab. Is that "moderate"? Does that challenge stereotypes or remove misconceptions? Many people would think not.. Full face-covering for women tends to freak-out and even scare many non-Muslims. On the other hand, the women do their workshops dressed like this--sometimes they remove the veil from the front of their face, sometimes not--and it seems to work out okay. They're not run-out of the Catholic schools or anything like that. Here's a shot of some IDC men at one of these events (the following were taken from the IDC's extensive Facebook page):

And here's one of the woman (posing with a non-Muslim recipient):

One of the places I first read about the IDC is on Damian Thompson's blog at the Daily Telegraph. Thompson's 2011 piece is skeptical but not completely hostile. At one point he writes:
It’s true that the IDC rejects Islamist violence and rhetoric. On the other hand, try clicking through to the profiles of team members. While there are photographs of the men, every woman is represented by an identical headshot showing a pair of eyes peeking out of a niqab.

I was curious about this, so I clicked through to see for myself. Sure enough there was a page of male and female members--the females slightly outnumbering the males. Most of the males had pictures, but for the females, in place of the identical-looking shots of eyes staring out niqab slits, there were merely blank squares with the note "Image Not Available".

Where were the sisters?

So I decided to do a bit of detective work, and quickly found an anti-Islamic blog post from 2011 where reference was also made to those niqab photos. But the comments on the blog indicated that soon after the original posts, the pictures had been taken down--replaced by those blank squares.


Now, one might assume that they were taken down because they were embarrassing. While the IDC folks were not about to compromise their beliefs by sending their Islamic sisters out wearing jeans and tank-tops, the rows and rows of niqab-covered female faces contrasted with the smiling "normal" looking male faces might put people off. After all, the idea was to, pardon the pun, put forth the best face of Islam, on the website among other places. And the identical-looking faces are not exactly a good advertisement for "diversity".

Interestingly, who would make an appearance in those comments but the IDC spokesman Daniel Johnson. And he was there to explain why there are now no photos of the sisters:
Hello. I’m Daniel Johnson from Islamic Diversity Centre in Newcastle Upon Tyne. The reason photos of our female volunteers were not included is purely one of security. Our female volunteers didn’t (quite understandably) want to risk being attacked by right wing bigots, who sadly are numerous in the North East of England.
Of course, the commenters reasonably replied that the biographies and names of the woman were still there, and that what was removed couldn't possibly identity anyone (for those right-wing bigots) since they were simply identical-looking photos of anonymous eyes peering through slits in identical-looking niqabs.

Daniel Johnson lied.

Is this the biggest Muslim lie ever? No. But it's symptomatic of the strategy. The practice of lying to non-believers to advance whatever contingent advantage for Islam is known as taqiyya. It's well attested in Muslim sources. Of course Muslims (when speaking to an audience of unbelievers) deny that it exists.

Does IDC challenge stereotypes and remove misconceptions? Well, if anyone ever thought that all Muslims constantly walk around with bomb-belts strapped to them or never smile or ride through Newcastle on camels or whatever, then I suppose it does. And if anyone ever thought all Muslims were "dark" and speak a harsh-sounding foreign language, it dispels them as well. Many of the Muslims, associated with IDC, such as Daniel Johnson, are "white" converts that have harsh-sounding midlands accents.

Let's ask a different question about the IDC's supposed moderation: Does Johnson or the other IDC members believe in Sharia law--you know, executing apostates, adulterers and homosexuals and all the rest? Oddly (or not so oddly) "Sharia" is not mentioned anywhere on the IDC's fairly detailed site. Of course, non-confrontational non-Muslim interviewers rarely broach the subject. Johnson occasionally alludes to Sharia--that "the Islamic way" may seem harsh but is in actuality the best way for people to live, that he is not in favor of "imposing it by force" on non-Muslims, and so on. But it is never condemned or denounced. Shouldn't it be, if, well, executing apostates, adulterers and homosexuals and all the rest is not part of "moderate" Islam?

The clue is the links and videos on the site as well as the IDC's Facebook page. Many of them are to people notorious for defending and promoting Sharia, though this would not be obvious or apparent to anyone who didn't already know a bit about the milieux. I suppose they could have scrubbed these, but then they wouldn't have anywhere near as much Muslim material, and again, it doesn't seem to matter much as the names and backgrounds are unknown to much of the non-Muslim public.

The man pictured on the IDC Facebook page is another British Muslim convert, Abdurraheem Green. In the above video he is reacting to being barred from participating in an "anti-hate" rally in St. James Park, due to anti-semetic statements, among other things. In addition, Green has made himself somewhat notorious among Islamophobes for his pro-Sharia and pro-Jihad statements. His defenders claim he has recently moderated his views, though as far as I can tell, this means he has been more careful in not publicly blurting out things that might be controversial.  

But to return to the IDC. Daniel Johnson and the Islamic Diversity Centre fully support Sharia law. How could they not? They are believing Muslims in every other way.

Where are the sisters? They are wearing they're niqabs, of course, challenging stereotypes and removing misconceptions.

To follow, why is Father Daniel Fitzpatrick palling around with Daniel Johnson?...


  1. I'm betting at least two of those guys at that BBQ had sucked the other off at least once. Yea. That's all I have :)